The objective of this residency is multi-faceted. First and foremost is for artists to gain a deeper knowledge of the
rich culture and wonderful spirit of Hungarian people and to act as ambassadors for their own countries. Secondly, artists
are brought together from different countries, backgrounds, media, and styles to encourage new dialogues which may impact
their creative expression. Art transcends political boundaries and although each culture has developed their own unique forms
of expression, the basic nature of humanity is common to us all, regardless of where we call home. Exploration of new surroundings
and each other was just as important as the exploration of our personal artistic avenues.
In February 2005, I was elated to receive my acceptance letter and went into high gear preparing for this adventure. The
idea of going alone to Hungary was appealing since I love the spontaneous and unknown aspects of travel. With many details
to work out I focused more on practical aspects than on emotional fears regarding my ability to live up to my own expectations,
which I would confront once I arrived. I feel it's very important to understand the history and culture of foreign places
I visit so I purchased several useful guide books. As flying to Budapest is expensive, I was fortunate to have accrued enough
frequent flyer miles to travel round-trip with an upgrade to business class which really saved my back and made it easier
to transport three pieces of luggage, one completely full of fabrics and art supplies. I made plans to spend four days in
Budapest prior to the residency, soaking up the unique culture of the city, as did many other artists in my group. Rooms had
been reserved for us by the HMC at a guest house located on the Pest side of Budapest, close to the Danube, the Parliament,
and the Metro station.
Once travel arrangements were confirmed, my next task was arranging for a sewing machine since I work primarily by machine.
The thought of hauling my 20 pound Bernina all the way to Central Europe made me nervous so finding an alternative became
my next priority. I emailed the Bernina dealer in Budapest (Varrogepcentrum) explaining my situation with the residency in
Balatonfured and that I would like to rent or purchase an inexpensive machine for four weeks. I was amazed at the reply from
Katalin, the store manager who spoke excellent English, that the shop would lend me a machine at no cost; all they asked is
that I advertise their shop as much as possible. All this communication took place in March and April so I was quite anxious
right up until my arrival in July, when I would meet them in person. In the months prior to departure I continued to research
Hungary, planned what I supplies I would need, renewed my passport, and purchased a new lightweight laptop.
My flight departed Albuquerque on Tuesday morning, arriving in Budapest on Wednesday evening, and I found it easy to get a
shuttle from the airport to the guest house. The next morning, I walked to the Danube for a glimpse of the imposing 750 year
old castle on the Buda side of the city across the river. Already I knew this was a magical place I would embrace and want
to return to in the future. I wanted to lose myself in the magic but I had to pick up the machine first; there would be time
for gallivanting later. I called Katalin to let her know I had arrived, whereupon she picked me up and took me to their shop.
Laszlo, the owner, and all the employees were excited to meet me, look at photos of my quilts and get to know a little bit
about me and where I lived in the US; I was very proud to be a cultural ambassador. I was delighted to learn they were loaning
me a brand new Bernina 440, including the Bernina suitcase for easier transport. Katalin took me shopping for fabrics and
threads and then the shop owner's son, Tommy, took me sight seeing around the castle and fortress. When I was completely
exhausted, the machine and I were delivered back to my room at the guest house; they refused my offer of leaving a deposit
or a credit card number for this $3000 machine. The incredible generosity and kindness they showed me was not an exception;
I would find that Hungarians went out of their way to be extraordinarily helpful over the next few weeks.
Extensive travel to six continents has taught me the importance of learning to say: please, thank you, hello, goodbye, how
are you?, yes, and no in several local languages (though that wasn't necessary in Antarctica). Few Hungarians speak English
but most speak German as a second language which proved helpful to me. My French, Spanish, and Italian were no use but I
have picked up enough German from past travels that I was able to read menus, bus schedules, and buy supplies in German. Although
I am very good at reading maps and figuring out transit systems, there were times when construction on streets and mass transit
made it difficult to decipher the detour instructions. Time and again locals would walk out of their way for several blocks
to direct me to the right place.
With three days left, I set out to discover Budapest and like most European cities, Budapest is best explored on foot. Since
I grew up 75 miles from New York City, I had spent time in Manhattan alone as a teenager and was pretty street-wise. I quickly
discovered it perfectly safe to walk alone nearly everywhere in Budapest during the day and also in the very early morning
and at night; I was confident to venture out alone, though taking the usual precautions I would use in any city. I spent
every waking hour enjoying the pulse of the city by wandering the narrow, medieval streets on both sides of the Danube, visiting
the Opera house and several major art museums. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Budapest rivaled Vienna as the "Paris"
of Central Europe, the place to "be" for artists, writers, and philosophers, until World War I brought upheaval with subsequent
Russian and Soviet occupation. Hungarians again regained their independence in 1990, and then joined the EU in 2004. The
cafe atmosphere of the 19th century is enjoying a welcome renaissance in the 21st century.
While living in Europe in 1968, my parents instilled in me an appreciation for antiquities. One site I had to see was the
partly restored Roman Aquincum just north of Budapest. The 20 minute train ride was as if I had hopped on a time machine.
I spent the morning immersed in this ancient city, completely mesmerized by fragments of a civilization built two millennia
ago. Several rooms had been reincarnated by restoring the surviving wall frescoes and furnishing the rooms with everyday
items such as wicker furniture, baskets, fruit, flowers; I felt as though I had been invited into the home of a Roman citizen.
A long storage shed filled with pieces of what was once a thriving civilization contained hundreds of stone columns chunks
and other architectural elements, exquisitely embellished with flora, fauna, and abstract designs. What many people regard
as a pile of old rocks and discarded "stuff", I see as a connection to other artists who shared the same hopes and dreams
as modern artists. Hundreds of photos I took there will provide inspiration for future quilt series, focusing on the simple
lines and textures of the decorations.
After several days of individual exploration around Budapest, we were met by Beata and traveled by van to Csopak for the residency.
Although the residency is international, our group comprised eleven Americans, purely by chance. The 12th artist chosen was
from the UK and cancelled due to a family crisis. There were eight women and three men, ranging in age from 23 to 66, all
incredibly talented, driven to create, and open to this extraordinary opportunity to discover new insights into themselves
and their artistic paths. Our adventurous crew of eleven would make our home together at Forras Fodado, a spacious guest
house surrounded by vineyards and sunflowers in Csopak, a little village on the outskirts of Balatonfured. We were two to
a room in large rooms, each with a great view of Lake Balaton. An inside studio/family room housed shared painting supplies
and we sometimes gathered there to view each other's artwork. Most of the painters worked on the huge covered patio and we
ate our meals out there when the weather was nice, which was most of the time. Anett Henye is a single mom, who runs the
guest house with the help of her 14 year old son Soma, and became a good friend to each of us. She went out of her way by
taking us shopping and driving us places difficult to visit by bus. We traded English lessons for Hungarian lessons with
both Anett and Soma. It wasn't like staying at a hotel at all; we were treated like family.
Beata resides with the artists during every residency and is as passionate about the artists as she is at getting exposure
for artists and the program. She is a very warm and caring woman who is never without Max, her beloved Beagle who was a joy
to us all. On the first official day of the residency, each artist presented a 30 minute slide lecture about their artwork
and intended focus during their tenure. That really helped us get to know each other as artists and individuals. When I
presented my quilts, the other artists, who were mainly painters, were quite surprised that my artworks were created from
fabric, thread, and sometimes a little paint. They had not been exposed to art quilts before and were very anxious to learn
about my techniques. During the next four weeks, several artists would come into my room and watch my creations take shape
with enthusiasm and although we didnÝt have any official critiques, several of us offered critiques of each other's artwork,
something I miss from my days at art school. Being surrounded by artists for 24 hours a day is one of the things I cherish
about the residency. By day we would venture out for our own explorations and that made for exciting conversations each evening,
when we could gather to share a little local wine, reflecting on challenges and new found treasures in this strange new world.
It was a two mile walk into the town of Balatonfured on the shores of Lake Balaton, the largest lake in central Europe and
famed for its healing waters. The normally very pleasant weather of 80 degrees changed drastically as we experienced a record
week-long heat wave with the mercury hitting 105 degrees, coupled with extreme humidity which made it uncomfortable since
there is no air conditioning anywhere. After dinner on those sweltering nights we cooled off by swimming in the lake, a pleasant
respite. The following week brought a cold front, sending us to the flea market to buy sweaters. Our time was completely
unstructured and I spent every other day exploring by myself or with other artists. On my walks to town, meandering through
old neighborhoods, I shot photos of the unique architecture of the homes and the spectacular gardens in the yards. Forras
Fogado was located on a bus route making it possible to take buses farther afield without going into Balatonfured. One day,
Robin Walker, a painter from Dallas, and I hopped on a bus to Veszprem, a medieval town about 20 miles away, where we discovered
a British version of super Wal-Mart and also a huge home improvement store. Those were our best choices for cheap food, picture
frames and other art supplies. That was the setting for the infamous incident of figuring out which bus to take back to our
Now that I knew the trick to getting the right bus, I went back to Veszprem by myself to visit the 1000 year old castle, one
of the oldest in Hungary. I spent the day wandering around the hilly, narrow, and cobbled medieval streets, all part of the
walled city built on a hill overlooking a large gorge. It was fascinating to walk through the restored buildings, many now
used as shops for artisans and the ancient village square that hosts free jazz concerts throughout the summer. This was part
of the complex tapestry of Hungary. The castles, the flowers, the wine, the people, their language, all woven together in
patterns that make this place unique; wonderful inspiration for me to take back to my fabrics to begin cutting and collaging!
I had decided before I began the residency that I wouldn't go with a plan for my art journey and just let the beauty of the
landscape and Hungarian culture speak to me and let my work evolve from that. Since I work primarily in landscapes, I did
bring fabrics along which I could use for landscapes; textures, flowery fabrics, leafy patterns, rocks, batiks, and a good
selection of fabric paints, markers, and threads. After visiting every fabric store I passed, I quickly discovered that fabric
choices were limited by our standards. Readily available fabrics consisted of woven, tweed types and silks, but very few
types of cotton and no batiks. Very often I use silks and decorator fabrics in my landscapes so I wasnÝt averse to using them.
On my first trip to Veszprem I had purchased a grey tweedy woven fabric, perfect for castle walls in ýVeszprem Castle Gateţ.
I worked best by spending an entire day wandering around shooting digital photos then creating artwork for the next day or
so, working from the images on my laptop. Six of us had laptops which proved to be a real help for developing ideas when
working from photos, since it was difficult to get prints made. I had also purchased a large drawing pad and plenty of drafting
supplies at the discount store in Veszprem.
My first day of working was a warm up exercise, using my fabric paints to create a close up of the sunflowers and the colorful
hills around our guest house which I framed and presented to the Bernina shop in Budapest as a thank you gift. I was so fascinated
by the architecture and the beautiful flora of the area I naturally gravitated to working in that direction. While woven
fabrics I purchased locally were perfect for portraying ancient castles and masonry of the homes, decorative stitches on the
440 machine, coupled with variegated threads I brought from home, lent themselves to embellishing the architecture with lush
vegetation. On one piece in particular, Shadows & Light II, I didn't have the right fabrics at all so I painted most of the
scene, using just a bit of fabric. A real boost to my confidence was that my co-artists admired how well I could render the
scene with a combination of paint and fabrics seeing as I hadn't painted much in the 30 years since college. Paint was a main
element in Breezy Morning, inspired by a sheer curtain blowing out from an open window. In eight weeks at Csopak I completed
eight fiber landscapes and have several hundred photos for future quilts. I have ideas for several series from just simple
architectural elements, intriguing since they are different than our doors and windows; they have their own stories to tell
so I will attempt to offer them to the rest of the world.
This residency effectively provides peaceful, unfettered time and space for artists to pursue their art; uninterrupted by
phone calls, visitors, and chores. Either by bus, bicycle, or on foot, we could go into town to check our email at an internet
cafe or shop. With no phone in the guest house, most of us walked to the local market and used pre-paid phone cards to call
home now and then, although a public phone has since been installed. I so enjoyed rising at around six in the morning and
having a quiet breakfast on the patio, soaking in the beauty of the gardens that surrounded the house. I shot photos of the
crumbling stucco, the weathered windows and doors, and the exotic flowers. At mid-day, a local restaurant brought our catered
lunch in the European tradition where lunch is a large, hot meal; a great opportunity for us to exchange our thoughts about
everything from the challenge of getting on the right bus to finding coffee creamer at the market. It also made us feel like
a family and furthered the bonds we were forming. For dinner, we were on our own to either cook in the communal kitchen or
go out for an inexpensive meal. I shared some wonderful dinners with my fellow artists at a local restaurant about ten minutes
walk away, where a gourmet meal with wine was served amidst beautiful gardens on the patio for less than $10; discussions
that ensued were priceless.
A requirement of the residency is that each artist donates one artwork to the Health Union, which owns the guest house in
Budapest and Forras Fogado in Csopak. Another artwork is chosen to exhibit at HMC sponsored shows; Beata has organized an
exhibit each year at the end of the summer sessions. Two nights before our residency ended, the first exhibition opened at
the Congress Center in Balatonfured. On the afternoon of the reception, three different television stations came to the guest
house to interview each artist and film us working in our respective media. At the reception, the mayor of Balatonfured opened
with a speech, followed by a speech by a local art historian/curator. Because Hungarians really support the arts, the reception
was very well attended and a few paintings sold that evening. Media coverage included television, radio announcements, several
magazine and internet articles, and an article in the flight magazine for Malev (Hungarian national airline). In addition
to the exhibition in Balatonfured, Beata Szechy worked with the HMC and the US embassy in Budapest to organize an exhibition
including artworks from the 1996-2006 residencies at the Central European Cultural Institute in Budapest; a catalogue of that
exhibit will be out in 2007.
On my final day, everyone gathered to bid me farewell since I had an earlier departure than the rest of the group and I was
truly sad to leave. I had made new friends, gained confidence in my ability to work under challenging conditions, and discovered
new focus for my visions. During the four weeks at Balatonfured, we eleven artists shared our discoveries, our fears and
insecurities, our support, and most of all, our joy. Some of us took baby steps, some made giant leaps; my steps were somewhere
in the middle, I didn't come home with a completely new road map, but I had taken a few short journeys outside of my comfort
zone and found some new avenues to explore. I have vowed to return someday as there is much more I would like to see and
I felt warmly welcomed by the wonderful people of Hungary.
The HMC is a 501(c non-profit each artist is provided with a studio space
The residency I attended was in July-August 2005 and the cost was $980, which included housing and two meals each day, plus
airfare. The cost for 2007 is $1080. Since HMC is a non-profit, the organization has no funding to provide the artists, though
artists can apply for grants from other sources to help offset the cost. I highly recommend this residency for artists with
an adventurous spirit.
Patricia Gould is an award-winning fiber artist who has exhibited her art quilts internationally, gaining much of her inspiration
from her travels to exotic places. In addition to having visited 49 states, most of the Canadian provinces and much of Europe,
her exotic wanderings have included Kenya, Tanzania, China, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, and even Antarctica.